3. he ichga D ednsda,
How I found myself while homeless in Alaska
t started with the Discovery Channel. I've
always had a yen to travel, but the show
"The Deadliest Catch," may have had a
greater impression on me than on the aver-,
age viewer. The summer after my freshman
year in Ann Arbor, I packed my bags and left
for Alaska to seek adventure and fortune as a
crabber. I never made it to the Bering Sea, but
that summer changed my life. .
My name is Jasper Kigar, but it hasn't
always been. My parents named me Tay-
lor. That's what I went by before my trip to
Alaska. When I left I was hoping to change
my personality from the cloistered and meek
church boy to something more fierce and
attractive. It's debatable whether I'm more
attractive now, but after spending the sum-
mer vacation as a vagabond and a fisherman,
my personality changed, and along with it, so
did my name.
When I landed in Anchorage, I was scared.
I quickly learned that the crabbing season
was winter, not summer, and I had to find
some other way to make the $20,000 cut a
crabber might take home after a run. My best
friend Josiah encouraged me, and after ask-
ing around in local bars about where to find
fishing jobs (the next best thing to crabbing),
we hitchhiked the 210 miles from Anchorage
to Homer in three days, thanks in part to a
Cajun man named Steve who preferred to
drive with a buzz. He sipped Jim Beam while
barreling down the curvy Alaskan highway
at speeds I think averaged at least 105 miles
When we got into Homer we had no
housing and it was too cold to camp so we
enrolled in a homeless shelter called the
Refuge Room. Josiah shared a bunk with an
old sex-offender named Dan, who smelled
of piss and semen. I slept above a 4-fingered
chef named Larry, who had a propensity for
falling asleep while talking.
After Josiah and I parted ways, I took a
job on a salmon seining boat. When it went
bankrupt, I took a job on the docks work-
ing at a cannery and lived for a few weeks
with a hippie named Caressa in the back of
her camper on the beach. After Caressa left
to help out on a real crabbing voyage, I was
left high and dry and homeless, again. I saw
her out to sea, and later that evening, walked
down the docks, hungry.
I heard laughter coming from an old cargo
boat called the Beaver, which I would later
learn was a sort of Vietnam Veteran's com-
mune and a place the weak of stomach were
advised to avoid. I walked in to see five
burly men sitting around a table in the gal-
ley drinking cheap beer and smoking hand-
rolled cigarettes. They stopped talking and
"Who the fuck are you?"
"He looks like a fisherman,"
"Smells like a slime liner,"
"What's your name, boy?"
"Jasper," I replied.
"You play crib, Jasper?"
It was the first time I'd used the name
Jasper. Until then I'd gone by Taylor. At the
time, I didn't think about it very hard. I was
nervous, and I wanted an alias.
We did play crib that night. If you ask him
now, he'll say he won, but our memories from
that night differ slightly. To make a longstory
short, we hit it off. Ken let me stay in the cap-
tain's quarters for as long as I was in Alaska.
He slept in the engine room because he said
he preferred to be "close to (his) diesels."
I don't know why I pulled the name Jasper
out of my head to talk to those rowdy guys,
but I think it was because I was scared. I
thought it was possible they might try to kill
me, so I gave them a fake, rugged-sounding
name, partially to protect myself in case I
had to make a run for it. For whatever rea-
son, it stuck. On the ship, I started to fit in
and feel at home. We were a ship of rejects
and ruffians, of which I was the youngest.
I hid my sheltered background along with
the Arabic and Spanish I learned at the Uni-
versity. I learned to speak their slang, and I
learned to drink - a lot. Beer break on the
Beaver started at 3 p.m., and we usually went
strong past midnight.
Today my name is Jasper. When I came
home from Alaska and stepped back into the
college life at the University I held onto my
scruffy face and the name. My friends didn't
know what to make of me and most didn't
accept it, but every new person who I intro-
duced myself to met me as Jasper, and my
mother and grandparents took to the name.
Jasper had a more exotic story to tell than
Taylor. Plus, he could work all day and hold
I returned to Alaska last summer. I lost
all my money again and quit the business
for good. The name, though, will stick with
me. In fact, I'm making it permanent. My
hearing for a formal name change is April 3
at 3 p.m. at the Washtenaw County Court-
house. But before that happens, I'd like to
extend my deepest thanks to Captain Ken,
without whom I never would have been
scared enough to recreate myself, and Tay-
lor, who had the courage co try the next
- Jasper Kigar is an LSA junior.